Haftarah Pinchas: Reading the Text IX
“And he said, ‘I have been exceedingly zealous/jealous for God, Power of Legions, for the Children of Israel have abandoned Your covenant; they have razed Your altars; they have killed Your prophets with the sword, so that I remain, by myself, and they seek my soul to take her‘ (I Kings 19:10).”
Jealous & Zealous:
“I have been exceedingly zealous/jealous for God.” What was this Kinah? Elijah seems to have answered why he ran, but not, “Why are you here (Verse 9)?” I assume that he is not describing his righteousness to God. I also assume that at this point of his journey, Elijah is not praying as he did under the bush, “Take my soul!” He points out that Israel is seeking to take his soul, implying that this is no longer what he wants.
Perhaps Elijah is referring to an earlier jealousy: “Pinchas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned My wrath away from the Children of Israel, in that he was very jealous for My sake among them, so that I did not consume the Children of Israel in My jealousy (Numbers 25:11).” However, Pinchas acted on his jealousy; is Elijah saying that his visit is an expression of his jealousy; a way to express his jealousy?
He wants to take his jealousy and transform it into fire (perhaps a chariot and horses of fire) as in, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, jealousy is cruel as the grave; the flashes thereof are flashes of fire, a very flame of the creator of heaven and Earth (Song of Songs 8:6).”
Is Elijah struggling with his jealousy, aware of its dangers; “For jealousy is the rage of a man, and he will not spare in the day of vengeance (Proverbs 6:34)”
Is Elijah telling God that he is in the cave where Moshe saw more of God that at any other time because he wants to connect to God’s jealousy, as in,“They have roused Me to jealousy with a no-god; they have provoked Me with their vanities; and I will rouse them to jealousy with a no-people; I will provoke them with a vile nation (Devarim 32:21),” and “For you shall not bow down to another power; for God, whose name is Jealous, He is a jealous Power (Exodus 34:14).”
Elijah’s jealousy has aroused murderous intent on Israel’s part just as did Pinchas’. Perhaps he is asking God to learn how to use his jealousy to make peace as did Pinchas.
Power of Legions
This can refer to the Legions of heaven and earth as in Genesis 2:1, or even to the Children of Israel as in Exodus 7:4 & 12:41. Each would imply a different response: If Elijah is speaking of the heaven and earth, he is describing his jealous anger against Israel who are sinning against the Power that gives existence to heaven and earth. If Elijah refers to the Children of Israel, he is implying that he is actually jealous for them as they can be, as they were when they left Egypt. He is jealous for their potential. Is Elijah referring to both ‘Legions?’ We will have to examine God’s response to determine Elijah’s intention.
This Appellation was first expressed by Chana in her powerful prayer, the prayer that led to Samuel and the anointment of a king. Elijah is not only responding to God’s question; he is praying for the Power of Legions to affect change.